Doctors May Soon Prescribe An Overdose Reversal Drug To Patients On Opioids

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Hospitals in the Chicago area may soon recommend that patients given painkillers also receive a script for a drug meant to revive them from an accidental overdose.

Edward-Elmhurst Health, a regional hospital system in Illinois, will start encourage doctors to co-prescribe the overdose reversal drug naloxone, also known as Narcan, with certain dosages of opioid painkillers beginning in January. Doctors hope the practice can raise awareness about the risks of opioid dependence and help save lives in a state mired in the addiction crisis, reports the Chicago Tribune.

Opioid overdose deaths rose by nearly 82 percent over the past three years in Illinois, claiming more than 1,900 lives in 2016.

Amita Health, which represents more than 130 physicians across Illinois, may also soon recommend that their doctors prescribe Narcan to patients on opioids as a precaution.

Nationally, the American Medical Association has backed co-prescribing of opioids and Narcan for several years for patients taking opioids with other medications. A study recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed hospitalization rates related to opioids for patients given Narcan with their painkiller prescriptions were lower than for patients without access to Narcan.

“For the AMA, the bottom line is naloxone saves lives,” Dr. Patrice Harris, chair of the the AMA’s opioid task force, told the Chicago Tribune.

Drug overdoses are now the leading cause of accidental death for Americans under age 50.

President Donald Trump declared the opioid epidemic a “public health emergency” Oct. 26, giving states hit hard by opioid addiction flexibility on how they direct federal resources to combat rising drug deaths.

Data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse released Sept. 7 predicts the addiction epidemic in America will continue to deteriorate, pushing drug deaths to an estimated 71,600 in 2017. If the estimates prove accurate, 2017 will be the second year in a row that drug deaths surpass U.S. casualties from the Vietnam War.

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